Growing Media for Microgreens: Tips and Tricks from Experts

Embark on a journey to elevate your microgreen game! Having cultivated these vibrant greens for over a decade, I can attest—your secret weapon is the right Growing Media for Microgreens. It’s not just soil; it’s the lifeline delivering water, nutrients, and air to your tiny green warriors. In this blog post, I’m spilling the beans on expert tips for choosing and using the ultimate growing media. We’ll explore types, pros and cons, and the nitty-gritty of preparation. Learn from common slip-ups and adopt the best practices. Soon, you’ll master the art of flourishing microgreens, ensuring a year-round supply of freshness and nutrition.

Table of Contents

 

Types of Growing Media for Microgreens

When you’re growing microgreens, one of the first choices to make is what stuff to grow them in. This stuff is called growing media, and it’s what holds the seeds and gives them water, nutrients, and air. Picking the right growing media is super important because it affects how good your microgreens turn out – their quality, how much you get, and even how they taste.

There are a bunch of options for growing media, each with its own good and not-so-good parts. Let’s check out some of the common ones:

  • Soil: Microgreens really like soil. It’s full of good things like organic stuff, minerals, and tiny living things that help your plants. Soil is easy to get, not too expensive, and keeps moisture well. But, it can be messy, and heavy, and sometimes attracts mold and pests. To keep things clean, use good, sterilized potting soil and add fertilizer for the microgreens to grow well.

    Growing Media for Microgreens
    Image of coco coir
  • Coco Coir: This comes from coconut husks and is good for microgreens. It’s eco-friendly, lightweight, and lets water drain easily. It holds onto water, so you don’t have to water all the time. It’s safe because it’s clean and won’t have bad stuff. But, it doesn’t have nutrients, so you need to add fertilizer. And before using it, you have to rinse it to get rid of any impurities.
  • Peat Moss: Made from old plants in wetlands, peat moss is fluffy, light, and holds water well. It’s safe because it won’t have bad stuff in it. But, it’s a bit acidic, which might affect the microgreens’ pH, so you have to add something to balance it. Also, it’s not great for the environment because it takes a long time to form and is not sustainable.

    Growing Media for Microgreens
    Image: Vermiculite
  • Vermiculite: This is a mineral that expands when heated. It’s light, clean, and drains well. It holds water and nutrients, so you don’t have to do it often. But, it’s dusty and can be irritating, so you need a mask and gloves. It’s not great for the environment because it doesn’t break down.
  • Perlite: Perlite is a puffy volcanic glass that helps with drainage and aeration. It holds onto water and nutrients, so you don’t have to water and fertilize a lot. But, it’s dusty and can be irritating, so you need to protect your eyes and lungs. It also doesn’t break down, so it’s not great for the environment. Plus, it can be expensive and hard to find in some places.

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How to Prepare and Maintain the Growing Media for Microgreens

After selecting the appropriate growing medium for your microgreens, it is important to prepare and maintain it properly to ensure optimal growth and quality of your greens. Here are some steps and tips for preparing and maintaining the growing media for microgreens:

Preparing the Growing Media:

  • Depending on the type of growing media you use, you may need to sterilize it before use to kill any pathogens, pests, or weed seeds that may be present. You can sterilize the growing media by baking it in an oven at 180°F for 30 minutes, microwaving it for 10 minutes, or using boiling water. Be careful not to burn yourself while using boiling water.

    Growing Media for Microgreens
    Sterilizing the growing media
  • After sterilizing the growing media, you need to moisten it with water or a nutrient solution. You can use a spray bottle or a pitcher to wet the growing media evenly, but not too much. The growing media should be damp, but not soggy. You can check the moisture level by squeezing a handful of the growing media. It should form a ball when squeezed, but not drip any water when released.
  • Next, you need to fill your growing containers or trays with the moistened growing media. You can use any shallow containers or trays that have drainage holes at the bottom, such as plastic or metal trays, seedling trays, or recycled food containers. You can also use a purpose-built microgreen growing tray, which doesn’t require seed-raising mix – simply add water. You should fill the containers or trays with about 1 to 2 inches of growing media, and flatten the surface with your hands or a spatula.

    Growing Media for Microgreens
    scattering the seeds over the growing media; Image Canva
  • Finally, you need to scatter the seeds over the surface of the growing media, and lightly cover them with a thin layer of the same growing media. You can use a small kitchen scale or measuring cups to measure the right amount of seeds per tray, depending on the type and size of the seeds. You can also use a small colander or a sieve to spread the seeds evenly over the surface of the growing media.

Maintaining the Growing Media

  • Once you have sown the seeds, you need to water them regularly to keep the growing media moist. You can use a spray bottle or a watering can to mist the seeds and the growing media gently, but not too much. You should water the seeds once or twice a day, depending on the temperature and humidity of your growing environment. You can also cover the trays with a lid or a plastic wrap to create a humid and warm microclimate for the seeds to germinate faster. However, you should remove the cover once the seeds sprout, usually within 2 to 5 days.

    Growing Media for Microgreens
    Image of removing the cover once the seeds sprout
  • After the seeds germinate, you need to provide them with enough light and air. You can place the trays in a warm, brightly lit spot, such as a windowsill, a balcony, or a small porch. You can also use a source of artificial lighting, such as a fluorescent lamp or a LED light, to supplement the natural sunlight. You should expose the microgreens to light for about 12 to 16 hours a day, and keep them at a temperature of 65 to 75°F. You should also aerate the growing media by gently stirring it with a fork or a chopstick, or by using a fan to blow some air over the trays. This will prevent mold and fungus growth, and improve the flavor and texture of the microgreens.
  • Depending on the type of growing media you use, you may need to fertilize the microgreens once or twice during their growth cycle. You can use a diluted liquid fertilizer, such as a fish emulsion or a seaweed extract, to feed the microgreens with essential nutrients. You can also use a nutrient solution, such as a hydroponic solution or a compost tea, to water the microgreens instead of plain water. You should follow the instructions on the fertilizer or the nutrient solution package, and apply it sparingly and carefully to avoid burning the roots or the leaves of the microgreens.

Common Mistakes to Avoid and Best Practices to Follow

Growing microgreens can be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby, but it also comes with some challenges and potential pitfalls. If you want to grow healthy and tasty microgreens, you need to avoid some common mistakes and follow some best practices when using growing media for microgreens. Here are some of them:

Common Mistakes

  1. Overwatering: Too much water can lead to mold growth. Water your microgreens every one to two days, or when the growing pad feels dry. If water pools on top of the soil, you’ve overwatered. Empty the drainage tray to prevent this.
  2. Under-watering: Not giving your microgreens enough water can cause wilting. Keep the growing media moist but not soggy. Check the moisture level by squeezing a handful of the growing media—it should form a ball when squeezed but not drip water.

    Growing Media for Microgreens
    Image of fertilizing the microgreens
  3. Over-fertilizing: Excessive fertilization can harm the roots and leaves. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package and apply it sparingly. Depending on your growing media, you might not need to fertilize at all.
  4. Under-fertilizing: Insufficient nutrients can result in poor growth. Provide enough nutrients for rapid development using a diluted liquid fertilizer or nutrient solution.
  5. Mistaking root hairs for mold: New growers often confuse root hairs with mold. Root hairs are fine white hairs on stems, normal and harmless. Mold looks like cobwebs or silvery hair extending from leaves and can ruin your crop.

Best Practices for Successful Microgreen Cultivation

  1. Choosing the right growing media: Select a growing medium that suits your needs and the type of microgreens you’re growing. Options include soil, coco coir, peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, hemp mats, burlap, biostrate, and rockwool, each with its pros and cons.
  2. Using organic and natural materials: Opt for organic and natural materials to avoid contaminating your microgreens. Steer clear of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and materials treated with harmful substances. Choose biodegradable and eco-friendly options like coco coir, hemp mats, or burlap.
  3. Testing pH and EC levels: The pH and EC levels of your growing media influence microgreen growth. Test these levels before and after sowing seeds and adjust if necessary. The ideal pH is between 5.5 and 6.5, and the ideal EC range is between 0.8 and 2.0 mS/cm. Use pH and EC meters or test kits for measurements, and pH up or down solutions, along with nutrient solutions or distilled water, for adjustments.

Conclusion

In this blog post, we have learned about the different types of growing media for microgreens, how to prepare and maintain them, what common mistakes to avoid, and what best practices to follow. We have also seen some examples and images of each type of growing media, and how they affect the quality and yield of microgreens.

Growing microgreens is a fun and rewarding hobby that can provide you with fresh, nutritious, and delicious greens all year round. However, it also requires some knowledge and skills to grow them successfully. By choosing the right type of growing media, and following the tips and tricks we have shared, you can grow healthy and tasty microgreens with ease.

 

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